Google shared a three-step guide on hiring an SEO for businesses who may be doing so for the first time.

This advice was provided in the latest episode of Google’s Search for Beginners series on YouTube, which is an extended version of the advice provided in the previous episode.


The benefit of hiring an SEO, Google explains, is the potential to improve a site while saving time compared to doing in on your own.

Google warns businesses, however, that hiring an SEO also comes with the risk of damaging a site as well as its reputation.

With that said, Google provides a three-step process to vetting an SEO before hiring them which consists of:

  1. An interview
  2. A reference check
  3. A technical audit

Here’s more about each of those steps.

Step One: The Interview

When interviewing an SEO agency to work on your site, Google recommends listening to make sure they’re focused on the right things.

For example, they should be focused on helping a business overall by improving how they appear in search results. Being focused too much on rankings and where a site appears in search results is a red flag, Google says.

It’s a good sign if they ask you questions like:

  • What makes your business and services unique?
  • What does your ideal customer look like?
  • How do customers currently find your website?
  • How does your business make money (and how can search help with that)?
  • What other marketing channels do you use?
  • Do you use offline advertising or social media?
  • Who are your competitors and what are they doing well?

Consider it a red flag if you’re interviewing an SEO and they’re not interested in your business from a holistic standpoint. If that’s the case, then Google recommends finding someone else for the job.

Another red flag is unrealistic guarantees of ranking first in Google, as no one can promise that.

Step Two: Check References

The second step of the hiring process, as recommended by Google, is a reference check of past clients.

When checking references, Google advises asking questions to gauge how useful the SEO’s guidance was. One of the major things Google points out is asking whether or not the SEO’s results were sustainable.

The mark of a good practitioner, Google says, is their ability to help make SEO an integral part of general business operations.

While speaking with past clients, make sure the SEO was focused on their long term plans and not just quick fixes.

Step Three: Technical Audit

After checking references and narrowing down your candidates, it’s time to request a technical audit. The SEO should come back with a prioritized list of what should be improved to make a site more search-friendly.

Those suggestions should be based on data collected during the audit, and be targeted toward providing a better experience for human visitors (not just search engines).

The SEO should be able to estimate the overall investment required by the business, and the positive impact that will be achieved as a result.

What to do After Hiring an SEO

Lastly, Google provides a few bits of advice on what to do after you’ve hired an SEO.

Before any work is started, it’s important to work with the SEO and agree upon goals, metrics, and how results will be tracked.

Google emphasizes that you should know what you’re going to get out of working together from the very beginning.

For more details, see the full video below: